The policy choices made today are thus crucial to ensuring socially inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in this region. The Sustainable Mekong Research Network (SUMERNET), launched in 2005 with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), aims to support the sustainable development of the Mekong Region through scientifically robust, policy-relevant research and outreach.
The mission of SUMERNET is to inform and influence sustainable development in the Mekong Region by supporting credible, collaborative research and regional assessment, stimulating independent discussions on key regional issues, and engaging with decision-makers and stakeholders to foster more effective and sustainable policies and programmes.
There are many other research activities under way in the Mekong Region and across Southeast Asia, but most focus on specific systems, sectors, places or countries. SUMERNET aims to address the need for integrative, regional-level analyses that compare or aggregate evidence and experiences. High-quality regional studies require extensive collaboration; SUMERNET addresses this need by bringing together researchers with links to policy, planning and practice across the Mekong Region.
SUMERNET has already established a successful and expanding network of collaboration across the region in several critical policy areas, with 50 members, including research and policy-making institutions, and a strong track record of publications and outreach activities. Together, the partners lead interdisciplinary, cross-national studies on major policy issues; engage with policy-makers, planners and stakeholders; and build capacity among both researchers and policy-makers.
Research in Phase 1 (2005-2009) and Phase 2 (2010-2013) focused on ecosystem management, transboundary issues, climate change and energy, livelihoods and poverty, and sustainable urbanization.
Building on that foundation, and reflecting shifting knowledge demands and policy debates in the region, Phase 3 (2014 to June 2017) will focus on three key issues: climate-compatible development, ensuring the environmental sustainability of regional economic integration, and maintaining ecosystem services critical to local development.
Stakeholder engagement is a central aspect of SUMERNET’s work. In each research project, we identify ‘boundary partners’, including fellow knowledge producers, knowledge users (e.g. think tanks, NGOs, media, advocacy groups), and policy-makers, all of whom help shape policies and development choices. We engage these partners from the very start, to ensure the project design, activities and outputs are policy-relevant and to build a sense of ownership.
SUMERNET will continue to take this approach in Phase 3, building on the trust and strategic partnerships we have built and working to ensure that we are widely seen as a source of reliable knowledge and policy analysis across the Mekong Region. We also intend to step up our communications efforts, aiming to reach both public- and private-sector audiences who can benefit from our research. SUMERNET’s Secretariat is hosted by SEI’s Asia Centre.
Thongyou, M., and R. Savangnokg (2011). “Negotiating Livelihoods in an Urban Hinterland: A Study of Fishing Households at Thung Sang Lake, Khon Kaen Province”. International Conference on Humanities, Society and Culture, 2011. IPEDR Vol. 20 (2011), IACSIT Press, Singapore.
Lebel, L. (2012). “Governance and Coastal Boundaries in the Tropics”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(2). 243–51.
Lebel, L., CT Hoanh, Chayanis K, Rajesh D. (Eds.) (2014). “Livelihoods, ecosystem services and the challenges of regional integration in the Mekong region.” SIRD: Kuala Lumpur. The chapters explore contemporary issues of ecosystems management and transboundary integration in the Mekong Region.
A number of policy briefings – both at national and regional levels – are produced by the various research partners to synthesize key insights and offer recommendations for policy makers and others in the region. The briefings are produced in booklet form and are available on request and also downloadable as pdf’s in the website.
More information is available in the SUMERNET vision guide 2014.
An e-version of the SUMERNET book is available in this link.
A booklet with profiles of the seven research projects in SUMERNET Phase 3 is available for download here.
External website: www.sumernet.org/
Funder: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency